FOMO in the time of COVID-19: Australian cultural content for lockdown


‘LIVE in the time of Cholera’ is the tagline of the ‘From A Social Distance’ online music festival. Outside FOMO- inducing weekly livestream and video listings (those that typically include free content from high-priced and/or high end cultural organisations, like the Bolshoi, the Australian Ballet, the Melbourne Symphony, many Museums, or the Met), fans are getting intimate access to their favourite musicians broadcasting from bedrooms and living rooms. The aesthetics of vulnerability – the improvised settings, the imperfect technology, the interruptions and bloopers, our collective uncertainty – shape and are drawn into these artefacts of our COVID-19 experience.

This post is to draw your attention to some of the health-sustaining cultural content on offer from Australia, and especially from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and other First Nations communities around the world. For example, First Nations dancer Tiny Rosales has started the Quarantine Dance Specials 2020 Facebook group, where you can watch Indigenous dancers dancing their prayers and their healing, as pow-wows and cultural gatherings have been cancelled. Or join in the celebration of dance yourself.

You might like to check out the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collections that can be accessed digitally in museums nationally and internationally, at the MCA, the NGA, the AGNSW, or the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia.

NAVA has some terrific videos about Aboriginal artists which may be of interest, including Vernon Ak-Kee, Tess Allas, Megan Cope, and Nadeena Dixon.

And kids can enjoy Aboriginal dreamtime stories on video via Red Pixels Animation, or a special Storytime with Sally Morgan & Blaze Kwaymullina.

Some of the Australian COVID-19 cultural fare that we are celebrating includes:

Isolaid – the Australian Music Community’s online live-streamed music festival brings you wonderful musicians in 20-minute sets every weekend during COVID-19.

Critical Stages’ lists weekly livestream events, with an emphasis on the Australian independent performance sector.

Extensive research from Creativity Australia has demonstrated the health benefits of singing – particularly participatory singing, including virtually! Pub choir has evolved to become Couch Choir with combined video singalongs. Or take a look at the Massive Singlet, which has a Thursday event for kids. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is inviting singers to participate in an ANZAC Day virtual choir. The Australian Rural Health Alliance also has a virtual musical collaboration to which regional and rural people can contribute.

Arts Hub has a list of free Australian creative activities at home, including Australia Theatre for Young People’s digital and streaming resources, online industry courses, storytimes and more. Their home page also contains articles advocating for a new approach to valuing arts in Australia.

The cultural determinants of health and wellbeing have never been so obvious as they have been during COVID-19. It is TV, games, music, drawing, dress-ups, online jokes, simulations of shopping and drive-by experiences for the young and the elderly, from photography to rocks patterned in the garden, that are fundamental for us to get through this uncertain and stressful experience.

That artists and the arts sector are not receiving economic priority, while underpinning our mental health, our civility, our capacity for sense-making and our hope for change in the aftermath of COVID-19, is a matter of passionate advocacy and ongoing rage.


By Dr Claire Hooker
Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney